Progress as a Work-in-Progress

There is something I have been avoiding.

It’s not on purpose.  I don’t really know what it is.  But it’s there. All the time.  As I’m left to sort through everything I learned from the Hope in Chaos production, I have this…something.  A sort of now-you’ve-woken-up-the-demons feeling in my gut.  It’s pervasive.  Always there.  While it would be easy to label it as some remnant of post-traumatic stress disorder, it doesn’t feel that simple.  It’s not a ‘here is something broken that needs to be fixed’.  It’s more like a ‘here is something without a name, that needs one.’  Sometimes it feels like even ‘it’ is getting frustrated that I haven’t figured it out.

I’m going to start by saying some things out loud.

Thing #1: Many days, when I see the skyline as I come into the city, I see it crumble.

Don’t worry too much, I know perfectly well that it’s a product of my imagination.  I don’t do any double takes…I don’t ever think it’s real.  I’m very much present in the real world.  But I still see it.  There’s a line in my play where I talk about how it seemed that the whole world was made of glass, “that I could throw a rock, and bring down the rest of Manhattan.”  In vetting through all these thoughts, I have to admit that I still see cities that way.  As breakable.  Everything is breakable.

Thing #2: I don’t ever want to stop seeing the skyline fall.

I know this one requires a little explanation.  I can start by saying that I have always felt exceptionally lucky to have been able to be of use after 9/11.  More than just the chance to participate in the relief effort, I learned many things that changed the way I saw the world.  To me, understanding – on a very visceral, experiential level –  that everything is breakable is central to my being able to see the world for what it is.  As I talked about in my last post, I cannot look at other places and believe that they are different from here.  They are not.  Our buildings are just as breakable, and our lives just as fragile.  Our population just as strange and terrible and beautiful as anywhere else. This is something I never want to forget. To many people, this is obvious.  To many more, it is not.  I’m finding that many people define themselves – elevate themselves above others – based on what they perceive as their differences.  If I receive one more ill-informed, bigoted chain email about how the Muslims are trying to take over the world one neighborhood and nation at a time I’m going to feed my computer to the person who sent it to me.  ENOUGH with parading bigotry around like it’s patriotism.  I’m sorry…I know I have a tendency to rant about this.  And I’m getting off topic.  It’s a recurring internal rage…and yes, I’m aware that I might just end up sounding self-righteous.  I’m not. In fact, I’m grateful for how often I am wrong, because in each of those times I learn something that shapes the new directions of my thoughts.  I’m as frustrated with myself…probably more so…that I haven’t yet found the way to be of better use.  A part of me writes this blog just to put more words out into cyberspace that aren’t simply more of the assholes trying to be right by yelling the loudest.

Seeing the crumbling skyline reminds me of lessons I never wish to forget.  The beginning of my education in world view.  It also keeps me awake.  Ready for whatever will be next.  Ready to hit the ground running.  Sometimes I feel like I’m killing time in the everyday, wasting moments that could be used more effectively.  More than sometimes.  It’s a hard thing not to feel when you sit behind a desk. So I try to re-focus.  To create purpose outside of crisis. That seems like the key to an ever-elusive balance.  I’m certainly not the first person to say that in crisis, the world becomes a much simpler place.  You have clear purpose. Your actions are based on necessity.  And dammit I’m good at it.  At negotiating through crisis.  Sometimes I worry that I won’t ever be able to fully exist without it.  So I occupy my time in actively looking for clarity, in breathing, in learning, in trying to sort some news out of the news. In raising my extraordinary son.  In exploring the world with my extraordinary partner.  I am lucky and curious and grateful and joyful and conflicted and frustrated and angry and restless.  I pour over a newly acquired stack of books on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, international conflict, and community economic growth.  And a little buddhist neuroscience for good measure. My life is not-so-quietly demanding a change in direction.

That’s it.  That is the ‘something’.  It’s telling me that it’s time to level up.  I am a sadistic multi-tasker, but I’m not doing enough.  Or at least not enough of the right things.

The only trouble is…now that I know I’m supposed to do something I have to figure out what THAT something is.  One step at a time, as they say.

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About American Raksha

Writer, digital media strategist, Chaos Ninja and advocate of strategic nonviolent action. www.heathermccuen.com
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